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Trapped in boss-worker relationship

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By Watipaso Mzungu, Contributor:

NDAFERANKHANDE—Most abuses go unreported

Anambewe – for that is the name she is identified with in Area 47 where she worked as a domestic servant for two years – was at pains, pondering whether to accept or turn down a love proposal from her male boss, Obanda.

If she rebuffed him, the boss might decide to dismiss her from work; and, in the end, she would be the ultimate loser.

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Her two children and an ailing mother back in Mchinji where she comes from would also suffer the consequences of the decision, should Anambewe, 28, indeed turn down her boss’ love proposal.

“And what will happen if his wife discovers that I am going out with the husband? What should I do?” she takes a deep breath as she struggles to come up with the right answer to the proposal.

Obanda – the surname of her boss at Area 47 in the low density suburb in Malawi’s Capital, Lilongwe – pledged to provide her with anything she might need if she accepted the proposal.

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After pondering on the issue, Anambewe responded positively to her boss’ sexual advances towards her, marking the beginning of the boss-worker affair.

At first, Anambewe and Obanda had agreed to protect themselves whenever they engage in love-making to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and possible pregnancy.

But as their affection for each other grew, the irregular couple agreed to change the terms of their relationship.

“We agreed to have unprotected sex although both of us had not gone for HIV testing. But I didn’t doubt him because he looked healthy and he, too, did not have problems with my health,” Anambewe narrated.

As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, the desperate domestic worker discovered that she was carrying a baby for her boss.

But when she broke the news to him, Obanda refused to take responsibility for the pregnancy.

“Trap some man, especially one of these bachelors, into having unprotected sex with you. And when this happens, make claims that he is responsible for the pregnancy. Meanwhile, I will continue giving you the support until our child is born,” the boss suggested.

Obanda was afraid of two things: his marriage could crumble if his wife discovers that he had been going out with their domestic worker.

Secondly, the revelation could tarnish his image both at the local church and workplace where he held senior positions.

“I promise to assist you raise the child. But you should not mention me as the culprit. Otherwise, you will put me in trouble,” he pleaded.

Considering her condition and plight back home, Anambewe agreed not to reveal her boss but told him in no uncertain terms that she would be forced to do so if Obanda fails to fulfil his promises.

Action Aid Malawi Women’s Rights Manager, Chikumbutso Ngosi-Ndaferankhande, says globally, women and girls scramble for few economic opportunities compared to their male counterparts. This compels them to give in to various forms of violence in homes, school and workplaces as they struggle to lift the yoke of poverty off their shoulders.

“Unfortunately though, most of the abuses go unreported because of lack of clear reporting systems and inadequate measures for redress in respect of the reported cases,” Ndaferankhande says.

She adds: “Women shoulder the greatest burden and responsibility in the society because they are the ones who run most of the family affairs: It’s a chain of things that are affected in their personal lives, with a heavy

impact on their physical and mental health.”

To address such challenges, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare in collaboration with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) such as Action Aid Malawi recently launched a joint national initiative called Ndiulula Campaign.

The campaign aims to break the cycle of silence on violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the world of work, including domestic and commercial sex work.

National Police Victim Support Coordinator, Patricia Njawiri, states that the campaign offers women in different workplaces a rare opportunity to amplify their challenges and raise their silenced and forgotten voices.

She said the project will promote women’s and girls’ voices, views, and opinions in the public domain and accurately document rights abuse while building a body of knowledge for advocacy purposes to influence policy and legislative change.

“There is a 24-hour toll free line, 5600, which victims such as Anambewe can use to report any violence they have suffered. And relevant authorities such as law enforcers will take measures to deal with the problem,” Njawiri explained

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